Cover image for Questions about angels : poems
Questions about angels : poems
Collins, Billy.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Pittsburgh : University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999.

Physical Description:
91 pages ; 22 cm.
American sonnet -- History of weather -- First reader -- Student of clouds -- Candle hat -- Death of allegory -- Reading myself to sleep -- Norton Anthology of English Literature -- Hunt -- Forgetfulness -- Questions about angels -- Wonder of the world -- Mappamundi -- First geniuses -- Afterlife -- Dead -- Endangered -- Going out for cigarettes -- Purity -- Cliche' -- Field guide -- Putti in the night -- Man in the moon -- Horseman, pass by! -- Memento Mori -- Last man on earth -- Come running -- Modern peasant -- Instructions ot the artist -- Weighing the dog -- One life to live -- Wires of the night -- Axiom -- Vade mecum -- Not touching -- Night sand -- Love in the Sahara -- Invective -- Life of Riley: Definitive biography -- Jack -- Metamorphosis -- Saturday morning -- Late show -- Pie man -- Wolf -- History teacher -- Pensee -- Discovery of scat -- Dog -- Willies -- On reading in the morning paper that dreams may be only nonsense -- Rip Van Winkle -- English country house -- Nostalgia.



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Material Type
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Item Holds
PS3553.O47478 Q47 1991C Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Billy Collins has emerged as the most beloved American poet since Robert Frost, garnering critical acclaim and broad popular appeal. Annie Proulx admits, "I have never before felt possessive about a poet, but I am fiercely glad that Billy Collins is ours."

This special, limited edition celebrates Billy Collins's years as U.S. Poet Laureate. Questions About Angels --one of the books that helped establish and secure his reputation and popularity during the 1990s--is remarkable for its wry, inquisitive voice and its sheer imaginative range. Edward Hirsch selected this classic book for the National Poetry Series, and each of Collins's poems-from his meditation on forgetfulness to his musings on the behavior of angels-is an exploration of imaginative possibilities. Whether reading him for the first time or the fiftieth, this collector's edition is a must-have for anyone interested in the poet the New York Times calls simply "the real thing."

Author Notes

Billy Collins has published six collections of poetry, including Questions About Angels and The Art of Drowning, Picnic, Lightning, his latest, sold more than 25,000 copies in its first year. He teaches at Lehman College of the City University of New York and at Sarah Lawrence College. He was named U.S. Poet Laureate in June 2000.

(Bowker Author Biography) Billy Collins was born in New York City in 1941. He earned a BA from the College of the Holy Cross, and both an MA and PhD from the University of California-Riverside.

Collins conducted summer poetry workshops at University College Galway and is the Poet in Residence at Burren College of Art in Ireland. He is also a professor of English at Lehman College (CUNY). In 1992, Collins was chosen to be the Literary Lion of the New York Public Library. He was named U.S. Poet Laureate in 2001 and held the title until 2003. Collins then served as Poet Laureate for the State of New York from 2004 until 2006.

His poetry has appeared in anthologies, textbooks and periodicals including Poetry, The American Poetry Review, The American scholar, Harper's, The Paris Review and The New Yorker. He is the author of six books of poetry including "The Art of Drowning." His poems have also been selected to appear in The Best American Poetry of 1992, 1993 and 1997. His works have won various awards including the Bess Hokin Prize, the Frederick Bock Prize, the Oscar Blumenthal Prize and the Levinson Prize, all awarded by Poetry. He has received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation.

His collection of poems entitled Aimless Love made numerous best-seller lists in 2013. (Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

These poems stick in the memory like burrs. Nothing in their pleasant, slick surface suggests that they'll hang on so. At first reading, they seem slight, cagey, a bit too polished and coy. The subjects seem derived from art rather than life; we note the death of allegory in one poem, bemoan innocence lost with Dick and Jane's arrival in another. Yet days later, the poems echo in the mind: the wolf who reads fairy tales until he enters one seems familiar enough to have been a dream or a late-night TV image; the history teacher who protects his students by lying about the past creeps into casual conversation. The sense of the poet's personality is unshakable. Edward Hirsch, who selected this book for the 1990 National Poetry series, calls Collins an "American original." He's right. ~--Pat Monaghan

Publisher's Weekly Review

Smack-dab in the middle of this collection is the delightful ``Purity,'' a poem detailing Collins's macabre writing process. On Wednesdays, in the late afternoon, the poet goes to his study and sheds his clothes. He then removes his flesh--``so that what I write will be pure, / completely rinsed of the carnal''--and takes out each of his organs so as not ``to hear their ancient rhythms / when I am trying to tap out my own drumbeat.'' ``Purity'' is about ideas rather than feelings, but the poet executes his metaphors with perfect precision and a bravura wit. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about most of the other poems here. Collins's images are often strange and wonderful but too frequently his poems are constricted by the novelty of a unifying metaphor. In ``Cliche,'' Collins ( Pok er face ) writes about his life as ``an open book,'' and all that we eventually end up learning is that he ``loves to feel the daily turning of the pages.'' We can admire the scope of Collins's imagination, but his poems rarely induce an emotional reaction, precluding us from any affinity with his experience. This volume was selected by Edward Hirsch for the 1990 National Poetry Series. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This book, one of five winners of the 1990 National Poetry Series competition, is Collins's fourth book of poems. Unrhymed, playfully subdued in tone, and somewhat restrained by a loose hexameter line, Collins's poems might be characterized as metaphysical musings in a whimsical mode. The poet mocks human inflexibility (``the only question you ever hear is about/ the little dance floor on the head of a pin''), hankers after the American pastoral (in ``American Sonnet''), and imagines being transformed by Kafka into the New York Public Library: ``I would feel the pages of books turning inside me like butterflies./ I would stare over Fifth Avenue with a perfectly straight face.'' Although occasionally glib or bland in themselves, these poems build upon each other, and those who read this volume from start to finish will be moved by the accumulated power of a poet who is not afraid to be alone with his imaginary, dissembling landscapes. For general and academic collections.--Ellen Kaufman, Dewey Ballantine Law Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

1. American Sonnetp. 3
A History of Weatherp. 5
First Readerp. 7
Student of Cloudsp. 9
Candle Hatp. 11
The Death of Allegoryp. 13
Reading Myself to Sleepp. 15
The Norton Anthology of English Literaturep. 17
The Huntp. 19
Forgetfulnessp. 20
2. Questions About Angelsp. 25
A Wonder of the Worldp. 27
Mappamundip. 29
The First Geniusesp. 31
The Afterlifep. 33
The Deadp. 35
Endangeredp. 36
Going Out for Cigarettesp. 37
3. Purityp. 41
Clichep. 43
Field Guidep. 44
Putti in the Nightp. 45
The Man in the Moonp. 47
Horseman, Pass By!p. 48
Memento Morip. 50
The Last Man on Earthp. 51
Come Runningp. 52
Modern Peasantp. 53
Instructions to the Artistp. 54
Weighing the Dogp. 56
One Life to Livep. 57
The Wires of the Nightp. 58
Axiomp. 60
Vade Mecump. 61
Not Touchingp. 61
Night Sandp. 62
Love in the Saharap. 63
Invectivep. 64
4. The Life of Riley: A Definitive Biographyp. 67
Jackp. 68
Metamorphosisp. 70
Saturday Morningp. 71
Late Showp. 72
Pie Manp. 74
Wolfp. 75
The History Teacherp. 77
Penseep. 79
The Discovery of Scatp. 81
Dogp. 82
The Williesp. 83
On Reading in the Morning Paper That Dreams May Be Only Nonsensep. 85
Rip Van Winklep. 87
English Country Housep. 88
Nostalgiap. 90
Acknowledgmentsp. 93